Ramblings on Life Purpose

a) Four Obstacles to Dreams [and Their Solutions] by Paulo Coelho

I read this in the preface to the paperback version of The Alchemist more than a decade ago as a teen.

It’s been encouraging me when things got tough, through obstacles 1-4 through the years.

May it be a light for you too (or for someone you know).

https://paulocoelhoblog.com/2009/06/22/workshop-the-alchemist/

b) I didn’t really understand why this worked and why people needed to follow their deepest impetus or vocation.

Now, after rereading chapter 1 of Mastery by Robert Greene. It all makes sense.

If you need to ask why people go for self-actualizing, evolution, growth, the path to mastery, adventure, or treading the path to their personal legend…

Then perhaps you have not yet known that deep joy that comes with doing and being all that you are. That sense of engagement during flow, and the feeling of accomplishing something that matters to you. It’s tacit knowledge and lived experience that give meaning to the words.

Knowing that even if you aren’t “there” yet, wherever your there is, every moment sings because you are in the direction of your life purpose.

c) As Seneca said, “It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.”

Dear self, do you really want to waste away your brief life (100 years at most, 80 if you’re lucky, 60 or 40 or 20, who knows)… or do you want to live it as Dostoyevsky described, when he had been spared the gallows?

“When I look back at the past and think of all the time I squandered in error and idleness, lacking the knowledge I needed to live; when I think of how I sinned against my heart and my soul, then my heart bleeds. Life is a gift, life is happiness … Every minute could have been an eternity of happiness! If youth only knew. Now my life will change, now I will be reborn.” — Fyodor Dostoyevsky

d) Last night I wrote the last bullet point logline to a challenging story that unites what I learned about people with what I practiced about story. Somehow, the 5 years of struggle and apprenticeship made more sense.

Somehow, I no longer need to go back to the days filled with endless distraction — chocolate, comics, conversations. There’s no need to distract myself from the pain of existing. I’m fulfilling whatever the divine, sacred, or connectedness gifted me to do.

I did not understand more than ten years ago when Paulo Coelho said that those who follow their personal legend may feel pain, but they do not suffer.

Running away from our life task is, essentially, a daily and moment to moment suffering.

Facing our life tasks, whatever your heart/brain/soul conceives it to be, is a joy no matter what pain comes our way.

We are clear on our purpose and every action in our life can support that. (After all, there’s little time to waste when you value yourself and your time.) And yes, it doesn’t have to be a dream job. Following a nagging question or doing the best that you can in work that fascinates or means something to you is enough.

“If you want to be the noun, first do the verb.” — Austin Kleon

e) If none of this makes sense, try reading Mastery by Robert Greene since he lays out the principles and examples we can model.

These Exercises Will Allow You to Be Creative When You Want to

These are my Rough Notes from Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande combined with ideas I’ve picked up elsewhere.

(Note that his post is UNEDITED. This is a quick refresher for someone who has already read the book. It can be also useful for someone who wants to skim some ideas from the book or see related concepts.)

While she focuses on writers, a lot of her techniques can be applied by anyone who seeks to do creativity on demand.

She has a lot of techniques that seem silly when explained, but have a big effect when applied. I’ve heard a lot of her ideas being repeated in disjointed fragments by different creative teachers but Dorothea Brande (let’s use DB as a shortcut) synthesized them into a handbook an amateur needs to turn pro.

(If you’ve read Turning Pro and the War of Art by Steven Pressfield, this is the missing manual on how exactly an amateur can turn pro. The best part: it doesn’t have to be bloody! If you’ve wondered why some artists can ‘take dictation from God’ and not have to suffer so much to be creative, this is the right manual. Note that you do need to stretch yourself, but it’s not what you think.)

Those marked with a 0 and a letter (ex. 0A) are theory (episteme). Those marked with numbers (ex. 8) have exercises that will help you build skills/intuition/expertise/craft (techne).

0A) Slough of Despond – most writers seek to become professionals and are told “Genius cannot be taught.” They come to the profession having good taste but not the technical excellence to master it. They mistakenly believe they need to master technical crafts first.

The four difficulties:

1. the difficulty of writing at all

2. the one book author

3. the occasional writer (example, writing only 1 page a year, waits for inspiration)

4. the uneven writer

These four lack some foundation skills that come before the need to practice technical writing craft. The modern term ‘emotional self-regulation’ doesn’t even capture half of it.

1) The object on a string dangling over a circle – to demonstrate that the unconscious can do the work for you with minimal effort (seems banal, but important for everything that follows). Following the circle with your mind, has the object on the string automatically following the path of the circle. Using imagination, your muscles make micromovements to follow

Read her book for the specific instructions.

0B) The self as dual: To be able to work with your inner selves, separate them into the unconscious (Heart, intuition, child-like & emotional but the animal root of strength) and the conscious (Brain, prosaic self, practical, the small human rider atop the tiger/elephant/dragon).

2) Morning pages – writing pages of freewriting (before you have read or talked to anyone) – links the power of the unconscious (Heart) to your writing arm/s. Heart gets to exercise and feel heard. Suspend Brain, we will need conscious prosaic self later. Morning pages are so foundational that Julia Cameron repeats it as a main tool for teaching creativity.

0C) [Not in DB, but just as crucial.] Note that since unconscious does a lot of the working/playing in creative work, we sometimes need to refill it’s ‘well’ of images and experiences. That’s why the creative teacher Julia Cameron recommends Artist Dates. That’s why traveling can renew someone’s zest for life. The unconscious uses everything from your whole life – that’s why feeding your mental garden with nutritious books on strategy (Robert Greene), philosophy (Daily Stoic), or getting metaphors and mental representations from other fields like history or science is useful.

3) Writing by prearrangement – set a schedule to write (for example at 4pm everyday for a month) – trains you to summon creativity on demand to an arbitrary time of your choosing

4) The First survey – Do a survey of your morning pages, determine own strengths – use Brain for this task

5) On Imitation – Based on Brain’s output in 4, also determine which technical excellences you need to practice. Imitate the technical excellences of other pro artists, but not their beliefs and world views. You need this to nurture your own techne. Episteme is only the introduction/theory/knowledge, techne/craft is when you are able to apply. Technique comes from the word techne.

0D) The root of originality is origin. Given the same writing prompts, 20 different writers will have 20 different takes. Because their beliefs, world views, and life circumstances are different. No need to try so hard to be creative or original, recall 0).

6) 11 Exercises from different spiritual traditions to increase mental/physical/emotional/social foundations. Like how an athlete or martial artist needs to train daily, so does the pro creative. Healthy body, healthy mind. A few minutes a day leads to consistent progress.

7) The Practice Story

8) R&R – No to busman’s holidays. Most writers are avid readers, but to last as a pro writer, know that it’s difficult for your brain to rest when surrounded by words.

Real recreation is doing something that is completely different from your work. For writers, this means doing wordless physical activity. Music without words. Visual things without words. Going for a run without words.

This sounds trite, but it’s actually the foundation of genius later on. When deprived of words externally, writers tend to find their own words bursting out of them internally.

0E) Genius – there is a third self. Learn to use it. Genius is not a fixed thing gifted to the select few but something in all of us that we can tap into. It’s like a higher imagination, an open channel to God, the synergy of Heart & Brain, something deeper and more powerful than conscious self can strain to do alone. It goes by many names but it’s powers can be used. Those we call “geniuses” just tap into this more often than others. They may even have a routine of habits that enable it.

9) There is one condition where genius often appears – do a rhythmic, monotonous, silent activity. Most pro writers have something like this – for some it’s scrubbing floors, for others tidying their house, for some going on a jog. The habits of writers/creatives can be so idiosyncratic that it hides their commonality – rhythmic, monotonous, silent activity. This sounds a lot like scatterfocus or giving ideas time to ‘perk.’

0F) Why does 8 work? If Genius in 0E sounds too amazing to be possible, substitute it with the variable X. X is to Mind what Mind is to Body. Say what? Think of it like an algebraic equation X : Mind :: Mind : Body.

When the body is still (or doing a rhythmic monotonous activity like jogging), the mind can work better. When the mind is still, X can do it’s job.

In DB’s time, meditation wasn’t all the rage like it is today. To understand what DB and I are saying, try to think of nothing. If you haven’t meditated before, you’ll find your mind chatters like a monkey.

That’s why in meditation, they recommend you focus on your breathing. Alternatively, you can focus on a dull object (preferably not shiny) and rest your mind there. The more your mind rests on what you’re focusing on, uou’ll find you’ll hear whispers of insights from unconscious and genius.

10) The story idea as object (or point of meditative focus) – This is the real magic. Now instead of the dull object or breathing, hold a story idea or character in mind as the point to rest your mind on. You’ll see genius or X get to work and bring the character to life. Without even trying, characters that were like soulless puppets start moving and having a life of their own. Plot points you were stuck in resolve themselves.

One way is to pick a start point and an end point. Make reaching the end point as effortless as exercise 1. Genius can even write a story fully formed in your mind so long as you ‘rest’ it on the idea long enough.

This putting an ‘idea as a point of meditative focus’ can be used to summon creative powers on anything from business problems to thorny relationship problems.

DB has suggestions for how to escalate these exercises in her book.

0G) In The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin, he recommends doing exercises to summon these creative moments more frequently. It’s easy to get these flashes of insight right after waking up or before bed. The technique is to get more and more of them several times throughout the day. Like Becoming a Writer, Josh’s book is full of tactics and strategies for the road to mastery.

There it is, Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande plus a few related ideas. What DB teaches is less about writing/creative craft than it is about a guide to your own brain and inner self. In 1934, she wrote it decades before brain research was a thing, her practical pointers are grounded in experience.

I’m believing more and more that techne can’t be taught or explained to you, you can only experience it for yourself to understand. The closest thing that an author can do for you is tell stories, because stories are the closest thing to ‘experiencing it for yourself.’ Try the exercises for yourself, you might be surprised at what you’re capable of.

Resist the Bandwagon or Follow the Majority? C’s Choice.

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” — RALPH WALDO EMERSON, “SELF-RELIANCE”

Back in high school, we had a student council president, C, who couldn’t pass a corridor without some student or school staff giving friendly greetings. Need your parents to trust that an outing will be okay? Have C talk to your parents. Assure them C is going. At 18, she had the aura of leadership.

Intramurals, down time. We were watching a game in our school gym when the ball fight paused.

It crossed my mind to ask her: “What if you wanted to do something but others were nagging you to do it?” My teenage self would always resist and rebel at that. “Or others nag you not to do it?” My mom always let other people’s judgment affect her actions.

A short pause, then she said, “I’ll do it anyway.” The game restarted and she went back to what she was doing. It seemed an obvious thing in her world. I looked at her, my expression blank — my mind doing the jawdrop.

“Don’t you want to resist or follow? They’re telling you what to do with your life.”

“If I decided it’s the best course of action, does it matter what they think? I’ll do what I need to do.”

As of this writing, 10 years lie between me and that memory. I doubt she’ll even remember that moment. Oddly enough, people don’t remember what you do, they remember how you made them feel. I’ll never forget the way she said, “I’ll do it anyway.”

She said it with all the confidence of someone who didn’t flinch at what the majority or minority thought. She wasn’t selfish, I knew her to be someone who would consider other people’s situation before making important decisions. I see, she chose what she decided to be true.

By thinking for herself, she took responsibility for her own life and the consequences of her choices. Do you?

Featured Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash

To comrades enduring their dark night of the soul:

No matter how dark the world gets, the sun rises at dawn.

Even the coldest winters thaw into spring.

And typhoons give way to calm.

Who knows what friends and what gratitudes, your next steps could bring.

For now, a warm embrace, I will be with you through the dark and the light.

[Wrote a quick draft while comforting a friend. This needs editing. Figured sharing was better than waiting for perfection.]

7 Life-Changing Books

Photo by Arif Riyanto on Unsplash

What books or authors have mattered most in your level up journey?

Searching for books that matter most can be daunting with the wide selection available out there. Asking avid readers for their personal recommendations can be one shortcut to find books that matter in all that clutter.

These are the books that mattered most in my journey of self-development. (Excludes technical and religious books). Perhaps one of them has the answers and questions you need.

1) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, PhD

The fixed mindset is THE highway to hell. Its obsession with outcomes gives birth to perfectionism, external locus of control, learned helplessness, the constrictive attitude, schadenfreude, envy, and more.

The growth mindset is the foundation of all empowerment, learning, and overcoming. Believing that any failure or success is temporary, that our traits can be improved if we train (or do not use them), gives birth to:

  • grit, the top predictor of success
  • curiosity
  • internal locus of control
  • resilience
  • the positive expansive attitude
  • mitfreude (from the German mit Freude, joy-with, feeling joy at seeing others succeed or feel happy. The opposite of schadenfreude.)
  • kaizen
  • facing obstacles with an empowering attitude
  • the willingness to experiment
  • and so much more.

2) The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

A tidy living space lets you be more centered, calm, and less stressed. You get to be free of unnecessary baggage. No more dust allergies because your room is easier to clean. Know and find everything you physically own.

Where you live daily and what you experience daily… the sum of that is your life.

In the 20 years before I encountered Marie Kondo, I tried to tidy only to end up with the same problems rearing their ugly heads.

The more untidy your life and room is, the more you can benefit from what she has to share. (I implemented her ideas after moving back home from college. I had two of every item, my room was so full I had no place to sleep on. It used to take me 30 minutes to get dressed to find clothes. My room was buried under more than 10 years of papers and books).

Now my room is the most comfortable, tidiest, and cleanest place in the house.

It is her core principles on what to keep, how to let go gratefully, and how to store items that really make her methods work.

3) The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Creative Recovery. Unblock your creative powers. Julia will show you that it’s okay to reconnect with your creative powers, it’s okay to have fun again, it’s okay to receive nourishment. She covers many key themes and assumptions that make living creatively fun and doable.

For years, I was a blocked writer and artist. I let perfectionism, the fixed mindset, and the opinion of others shame me from even putting words onto paper. It was her encouragement, mindset, and exercises that made it possible to start again.

For INFPs, I’d recommend it even more since it addresses our strengths whatever our craft. Beginning or advanced creatives can stand to be more open.

It’s not for everyone since some people aren’t fans of spirituality and play.

However, this book emphasizes on spirituality for good reason. When we are ego-centered, when we try to create from a place of “I am awesome/brilliant,” it is easy to get blocked because all responsibility is on our shoulders. We meet the page or canvas alone. We are building castles in the sky with no firm foundation, our well runs dry.

When we create while feeling connected to a higher existence, we feel connected to the whole of existence. This could be a God for the religious, the social unconscious, the force, the ancestors, the connectedness of all things, good orderly direction, or whatever you believe in. What matters is that you trust in something bigger than yourself. Why? Because you will meet the page or canvas you create on with everything you are connected to.

Rather than a castle in the sky (reaching up), you can reach down into this sort of divine wellspring where all creation comes from. It’s like characters and ideas bubble up to the surface. It’s like making your unconscious your ally.

I know that can sound airy-fairy. However, when I started reaching down, writing became easy and fun again.

It’s not plagiarism either, more like creating a new combination from which your ‘self’ is part of the new ‘origin.’

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal;

bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.

The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn.”

T.S. Eliot

Perhaps Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi can explain that in a more scientific manner. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon is straightforward advice on the nuts and bolts of creativity.

For those who do need to rediscover creativity, this might just be the saving grace they need.

3) The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday

There is a reason why the founding fathers of the US, top athletes, and great thinkers all apply the principles of Stoicism. Their core principles, ethics, and virtues will ground us on what really matters in life.

It was Epictetus who taught me to accept death gracefully, to let go of anxiety, to be free of the opinions of others.

From Marcus Aurelius, I learned how to handle responsibility with grace and virtue. From Seneca, we can realize that we have enough time to live, it is just that we waste much of it.

A preview of some concepts:

Focus. Locus of Control: Things outside our control are indifferent. Things within our control, within our reasoned choice, even our own response, is the battleground of good and evil.

Right Action: 4 Virtues, Responsibility as freedom, Summum bonum (the highest good), the discipline of a soldier/athlete

Acceptance: Amor fati (Love fate, coined by Nietzsche), Memento mori (Remember you are mortal), Premeditatio malorum (Imagine how things can go wrong so you are prepared for when they do).

4) Vagabonding: The Art of Long-term World Travel by Rolf Potts

I would call him the best mentor in autonomy. He shows how to personally be the master of your time and freedom.

This book (and the long-term travel it helped bring about) inspired Tim Ferriss’ The 4 Hour Workweek.

Long-term world travel is possible, more possible than we imagine. He has included many world travelers of the past and present to show that yes, a lot of people are with you on the dream and reality of travel.

5) Robert Greene’s Books

Robert Greene’s specialty is a marriage of power strategies and the classics. It feels like he reads a thousand books then distills their most potent gems into one book on a topic.

Some people may accuse him of being amoral. However, his work is more on realism. Rather than a debate on whether a theory exists or not, he focuses more on what works or not.

The Laws of Human Nature (Why, Drives) – it’s a masterpiece on how to be a better human and be aware of the drives that push and pull at us. Don’t come to this book expecting facts and figures, it’s grounded in historical examples instead.

Art of Seduction (persuasion), like Greene, says, “everyone wants to be seduced,” that is communicated with in a way that addresses one’s needs and desires. He tackles the seductive characters (attractive traits), victim types (common weaknesses because what we feel we lack), and the seductive process (the stages of seduction, whether to continue or drop the seduction).

Surprisingly, this was a great aid in reading and writing for the romance genre. It’s also an interesting read for those whom persuasion is their bread and butter.

33 Strategies of War, how to execute ideas into reality. This is a masterpiece in execution. All the theories and advantages in the world can’t help someone who won’t execute on it. (Surprisingly, this book has helped me a lot in overcoming my blocks and finishing my writing).

The 48 Laws of Power, how not to get bullied in this competitive world.

Mastery, the greatest power we can unlock is to become a master of our chosen domain of knowlege/action. In the Self-Determination Theory triangle, it is Competence that lets us negotiate for more Autonomy and Relatedness.

The 50th Law, boldness, fearlessness

Note that Robert Greene is also the mentor of Ryan Holiday. The Daily Stoic did a wonderful interview of Greene on his Laws of Human Nature.

The world does have competition, it does have people who will use the techniques of power, war, and seduction against us. It is a great aid in being prepared.

Think about it, who would benefit if you never learn the techniques of power? If you stay ignorant of what is really happening in an interaction?

For those who want power (potential realized), it will be more beneficial for them to condemn these books in public while using them as a reference in private. As Josh Kaufman says in The PersonalMBA, Power is a neutral tool. You can learn it and use it for the good too.

[Fair warning, the books are a dense read. I personally have the Kindle edition and the Audible audiobooks. (Though I do have Human Nature and Mastery as hardbound books). I listened for maybe an hour a day while commuting or reading chores. I only looked at the text when I needed to review concepts or take notes.]

6) The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

He is a living example of the growth mindset in action in all areas of one’s life.

“If you want to be in the top 1% of a particular domain, then you can’t take your cues from and follow the social norms of 99% of people.

This is harder than it sounds. We are wired to imitate. The further you want to climb, the more carefully you need to construct your tribe.”

James Clear, from his newsletter 3 ideas, 2 quotes, 1 question (September 19, 2019)

Josh is someone who is in the top 1% of 2 or more domains. This is a peek inside his mind.

(If I need a positive influence to take me out of the fixed mindset rut, I do chores while listening to the audiobook).

7) A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

I can’t spoil the ending but, let’s just say this has taught me more about being a whole integrated human, about defeating procrastination, and about waking up to our own potential than any other story.

Le Guin is a master at storytelling and she has done some things in this magical fantasy that were revolutionary. She did the magic academy thing decades before Harry Potter was in vogue. She wrote this book in 1968, when it was beyond the time to cast dark and brown skinned people as the heroes of a story. (I’d tell you more, but I don’t want to spoil it!)

Bonus) Your own live performances: Acting, Improv, Public Speaking

Why are these life changing? Because they teach physicality (body control), emotional control, and how to be in the moment. Rather than learn from a book, there’s a lot of fun and practicality in performing.

As Robert Greene demonstrated in Seduction, much of what others see is only the surface, the theatrics, the spectacle. (Rather than bemoan this, it’s easier to have fun with it and enjoy the roles we can take up in life).

Others only seeing the surface can be a good thing in live performance. You can be very nervous while giving a public speech, yet no one notices. All you need is some control of your body and an outline of your content.

Stella Adler’s method for acting focuses on visualization, observation, and imagination. All techniques that can be useful to writers as well. When I learned her methods at PETA Theater‘s Basic Acting class, I was surprised at how healthy and controlled it was – how much it could be applied into philosophy, into a life well lived.

Some acting techniques can be harmful or limiting to the practitioner. (For example, taking Method acting too far or relying heavily on emotional recall). Stella’s way can help an actor rise above their personal experiences. After all, our own modern pedestrian experiences can hardly prepare us for the role of Hamlet if we only relied on recall and ‘being natural.’

Toastmasters (Where Leaders are Made) is a great place to learn public speaking and meet interesting, driven people. I’ve attended in clubs from 2012-2015 and 2018 onwards. (When I left the theater and acting in 2016, I missed the thrill of being on-stage communicating with others.) Toastmasters is a great way of improving your communication skills, the evaluation is encouraging, the people are welcoming and spirited.

If that’s not convincing enough: Susan Cain prepared for her TEDTalk and book tour by attending Toastmasters.

Pick One and Go Forth

Let’s go back to the basic rules of making non-fiction reading possible:

  1. Pick one thing that you either: a) find interesting, b) need most right now
  2. Skim or use summaries
  3. Read closely on the parts you need

Life-changing books are most life-changing when we pick them up at the point in our life that we need them the most. How about you, which books or experiences will you do next?

Top 7 Blogs on Self-Development

The Top 7 Blogs on Self-Development + 1 Thing You Can Try

How do we unlock our personal potential? It’s one thing to consider it once, it’s another to have companions to think it through with for many years.

For more than 10 years, these are the blogs I’ve occasionally checked in on once a week.

Most of their free content is more powerful than the paid material of others. May it serve you well.

1) James Clear

http://jamesclear.com

Clear, what an appropriate last name. He writes about habits and human potential. He takes the latest scientific research and explains it in an interesting and clear way to readers.

Habits are the foundations of daily life, few things are as potent and consistent in unlocking human potential.

2) Josh Kaufman

https://personalmba.com

Like Robert Greene, Josh Kaufman reads hundreds of books/experiences and summarizes their most useful concepts.

Unlike Robert Greene – who takes several historical anecdotes to illustrate – Josh Kaufman distills concepts into short chapters digestible by busy business people.

If you’re going through a quarter-life or midlife crisis: I highly recommend his chapter on “Reorganization”

3) Scott H Young and Cal Newport

https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog
http://www.calnewport.com/blog

I’ve combined them both here because they have similar approaches to self -development. They also made an online course together (Top Performer).

Both Cal and Scott show ways we can learn and think better and faster, to be a successful knowledge worker.

4) Mark Manson

https://markmanson.net

Mark’s blog and two books are famous for a reason: he looks beyond the BS of our current society AND he is not afraid to offend people.

Some of his conclusions challenge the majority opinion in self-development literature – The intense love or hate he receives is a sure signal he is holding up a mirror to society.

These titles of some of his best articles can explain what you’ll be in for:

5) Ramit Sethi

https://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com

Ramit will show you the many ways you are leaving money on the table and what you can do about it. He takes no BS and pushes for action.

6) Tim Ferriss

https://tim.blog

Tim is known for two main things:

  • his crazy rapid learning experiments that are surprisingly wildly successful (his 4 Hour Books series)
  • his long-form interviews of many successful people. (The Tim Ferriss Podcast and its related books).

I’ve tried my hand at cooking, long-term world travel, no complaint habits, among many other things thanks to his interesting experiments.

7) Your own blog or skill

Let’s subvert this roundup by saying one of the best blogs you can read is one that you make yourself. There is a lot we can learn from editing our own writing.

How do you get better at something? You do it. Ask any master of their craft, from Julia Cameron to Stephen King, and they will say that we learn as we do something.

In one of her Masterclass.com lessons, Margaret Atwood says it well:

“How do you strike the balance between something complicated that doesn’t work and something that’s just complicated enough and does work?”
“Practice.”
“And yet, you can’t tell anybody how to do that because it is hands in the mud.”

She was talking about how “finding the [right story] structure takes time.” However, I believe it applies to all crafts.

In the later Middle Ages of Europe, apprenticeship was the standard system. In our modern era, most of our standardized education is about thinking about things. (Scott H Young discusses the difference in Thinkers vs Doers).

It has little to do with the actual craft of blogging, writing, or painting. Sports are treated as “extra-curricular.” But what if a person wants to be a pro tennis player or pro writer?

The person who wants to master a craft will need to go out of their way to seek an apprenticeship. That is, in the beginning, to build the quantity that will lead to quality.

Empowering Influences

The internet is a tool. It is up to us how to use it.

It can be a timesink of cat videos, porn, or gossip.

It can be a way to access knowledge for those who could have not otherwise.

Mr. Youtube, Javelin throw world champion and Olympic medalist, learned his craft thanks to Youtube videos from the pros. Where he grew up, there was no other way to access training in the javelin throw. What others shared online gave him that chance.

TEDTalks used to be an event that only elites could be invited to. Now, the ideas shared in its conferences are available for all of us to see.

The tribe or situation we find ourself in now may not be so empowering. However, for better or worse, these influences are available to use with our device, connection, and attention.

The Banquet Before You

The blogs mentioned above can be empowering influences in your journey. James Clear, Scott H Young, Cal Newport, Mark Manson, Tim Ferriss, Ramit Sethi, Josh Kaufman, and others have a lot to share. This is only one segment of the market.

It is up to you who you choose to surround yourself with.

Self-Introduction

Rolling waves and earthquakes,
beneath a calm blue sea.

Why is the title of this blog Idea Wanderer?

It’s inspired by two quotes:

I would have been a blocked writer forever if it weren’t for the

Thanks to all the mentors, comrades, and true family I’ve met on these journeys.

Hide or Seek

The Child in Plato’s Cave

“Can’t I be happy in the shadow world?””

The darkness is rest. If I don’t show myself, no one can hurt me.

I don’t know what I’ll face if I go out. The light could kill me.

The Voice that Calls

You know you aren’t truly happy there.

Inside the cave, it’s dark, damp, and cramped.

What if I told you the cave itself was the monster?

Come out, come out, wherever you are.

The light is blinding — at first. Then it becomes bright, warm, and free.

Wake Up Energized in the Morning with this 1 Trick

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

How do you start every morning with vigor?

Imagine you’ve woken up groggy or in pain. You have a long day ahead of you, yet there’s nothing you’d rather do than stay under the covers of your warm and comforting bed. Does every morning have to feel so tortured?

The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied eminently creative people and found this wonderful alternative:

“Creative individuals don’t have to be dragged out of bed; they are eager to start the day. This is not because they are cheerful, enthusiastic types. Nor do they necessarily have something exciting to do. But they believe that there is something meaningful to accomplish each day, and they can’t wait to get started on it.

Most of us don’t feel our actions are that meaningful. Yet everyone can discover at least one thing every day that is worth waking up for. It could be meeting a certain person, shopping for a special item, potting a plant, cleaning the office desk, writing a letter, trying on a new dress.

It is easier if each night before falling asleep, you review the next day and choose a particular task that, compared to the rest of the day, should be relatively interesting and exciting.

Then next morning, open your eyes and visualize the chosen event—play it out briefly in your mind, like an inner videotape, until you can hardly wait to get dressed and get going.

It does not matter if at first the goals are trivial and not that interesting. The important thing is to take the easy first steps until you master the habit, and then slowly work up to more complex goals.

Eventually most of the day should consist of tasks you look forward to, until you feel that getting up in the morning is a privilege, not a chore.”

I’ve tried everything from morning rituals to habit tactics. None of them worked. Finally, I encountered this while listening to the audiobook of Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

This excerpt, “Wake up in the morning with a specific goal to look forward to,” appeared in the chapter on increasing Personal Creativity. 

It was one of the answers to the question: “How can we relearn to enjoy curiosity so that the pursuit of new experiences and new knowledge becomes self-sustaining?

‘I’ve always struggled with mornings and you’re telling me the solution is that simple?’ Yes, life doesn’t have to be complicated or painful.

Every time you wake up this week, visualize one exciting activity you’ll do that day.

With just this one trick, you too can leave bed every morning feeling energized and raring to go.


Sources. All quotes above are from:

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) (p. 349). HarperCollins e-books. Kindle Edition.